Friday, September 28, 2007

Let Them Eat Wii!

wii copy
We were shopping at the Paseo Alcorta shopping mall the other day and we noticed a Nintendo Wii in the window of a store. We about passed out on the spot. The price was a mere AR$3,000. That is $1,000 in US dollars. It was not some ebay scam. It was not due the some crazy inflation rate. That is the actual retail price here.

I love my Wii. We can't imagine life without it. I don't know that I would pay $1000 for one.

It is not just Wii's that are priced so crazy. All electronics here are priced through the roof due to huge import duties. Just the other day I was offered a handsome sum for my video iPod. The offer was more than double what I paid for it and it is even a couple of generations old now.

Most things in the store are made here. The government since the time of Peron has really pushed Argentine economy to be self sufficient. And that policy has helped employ a large number of people. However, this gringo feels they are getting a raw deal.

The stores are filled with inferior goods. We went shopping for baby strollers last week and were looking at paying $200 for a stroller that was not even to the standard of the $19.95 version at Toys R Us. Why? My guess is that the market isn't being allowed to work freely and efficiently and the manufactures here have been insulated from any real competition. Plus the raw goods are harder to come by and more expensive from the duties placed on them.

Another example. My daughter started school way out in the suburbs. Which means she (and we) must get up at the un-Argentine hour of 6:00 to get ready for the bus that comes by at 7:00. Time to get an alarm clock. Only there are none to be found in the stores. At first I thought this was a cultural thing. Why would a country that prides itself on never being on time for anything need alarm clocks? OK, it may be partly due to that. But in reality with limited pesos, why spend money on the overpriced item when the alarm on your cell phone will work just fine.

We were told in our expat orientation meeting at school that if you want to find good quality goods go out to the Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart! Something is seriously wrong with this place if I have to go to Wal-Mart to find "quality".

If they opened the markets here and eliminated the tariffs, prices would come down, the economy would grow the quality of life would increase along with the quality of goods. Sure some local manufacturers would have to close due to the pressure to compete globally. But, BustBuy, CompUSA and the new Argentine equivalents would trip over themselves opening new stores employing more than the factories that did have to close ever did.

Then every boy and girl would be blessed with Wiis and life would be grand. I say let them eat Wiis! Wii tennis anyone?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My New Flickr Friends in BA: Safari BA


I hooked up with a Flickr group here in BA and went to my first Flickr meetup on Sunday. The group is SafariBA:reloaded. We went to a wildlife park about an hour northwest of the city by bus. Temaikén is on par with the better zoos and wildlife parks in the U.S.—only without all the commercialism.

The photo above is not mine. It is from one of the other members (muchas gracias Martín). I'm the one making the "I" in the pic.

Most of the group spoke only castellano. However, a few were able to translate for me. Also, another expat who hooked be up with the group came along. We had a good time and took some great pics. Be sure to check out my Flickr photos from the trip.

Thanks again to:
and Jason

Here are some of my pics from the event:

White Tiger Temaikén

Friday, September 14, 2007

Buenos Aires Food Heaven


It's about time we get down to details on the wonderful food here. My wife and I have been having some of the best meals we have had in a long time.

Last night we ate at Sottovoce around the corner from our apartment here in the Recoleta. Sottovoce serves classic Italian food with impeccable service and an expert touch in the kitchen. It is said the restaurant is popular with politicians and the upper crust Italians in the neighborhood. There was a mix of very refined Italians, Recoleta grand dames and younger couples dining last night. Can't say if I saw any politicians.

We started with two appetizers of carpaccio. One was the traditional beef with arugula and parmesan. The other was a carpaccio of fresh salmon with capers and dill. The beef carpaccio was traditionally executed. However, the arugula here has a wonderful peppery flavor that can't be duplicated in the US. And when it is paired with the super thin slices of Argentina's famed beef, this standard Italian fare is turned spectacular.

Can't say the same for my salmon. I love dill on grilled salmon. I love capers with smoked salmon. The two just overpowered the raw salmon. Using the two together sparingly in more of a garnish combined with a little lemon would of been a better route.

For the main event, my wife went for the roasted conejo (rabbit) served in a wonderful hunters sauce. It was succulent and very flavorful without the gamey taste most rabbit dishes have.

I wanted to try some of the homemade pasta they are known for. My Tagliatelle Sottovoce was served with a simple sauce of tomato, basil, oregano, garlic and olive oil. It was a simple dish expertly prepared. The fresh tagliatelle was the best fresh pasta I have had anywhere. The sauce was a perfect balance of flavors.

We finished with the Chocolate Vulcano pictured below. Ummm, chocolate heaven.


Our whole tab came out to $224 pesos (US $70). And that included a bottle of 2004 Luigi Bosca Reserve Malbec. Easily a $50 to $60 bottle of wine in the states. While the cost of eating out here has dramatically risen lately, I can get use to eating a fine meal for about what we would pay for a nice bottle of wine in the US.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spring Is Almost Here...

Spring is Almost Here....

Well, not quite yet. It has been cold and rainy the last two days. I snapped this photo from our balcony yesterday after the rain had stopped. It's raining again today. I can't wait for warmer weather to see this wonderful city at its best.

It is weird getting use to spring falling right on the heals of our hot Texas summer. ( Remember the seasons are reversed down here south of the equator.) It has been a very cold winter here in Argentina. The cold was a wonderful change from the August heat back in first. It's novelty has worn off.

Although it hasn't been that bad since we landed. The weather here is a lot like Texas in that it can be frigid cold one day and 82 the next. In a few months, I'm sure I'll be complaining about how hot and humid everything is... Just like back at home!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Protest On My Front Doorstep...

UPCN Protest 2

My kids starts school tomorrow and we needed to get all of their school supplies. As we walked out to get them, we were greeted with our first Buenos Aires protest... Right in front of our apartment! Sorry for the poor quality of the photos. I didn't have my camera handy and had to use my cellphone.

The protest was organized by Union of Civilian Personnel of the Nation or UPCN. From what I can tell, they are a labor union representing civil employees of Argentina.

I'm no expert on the labor situation here and my Castellano (the local Spanish) is still very poor. But, I think they were protesting the effect of recent inflation on their wages and demanding a bigger Christmas bonus. I'll have to wait and see if the local English language paper explains things better.

UPCN Protest 1

They completely blocked traffic on Callao in front of our apartment and made a bunch of noise with loud drums and fireworks they shot from canons in the back of pickup trucks. Alicia seemed pleasantly surprised by all the commotion unfolding right in front of her.

But before you knew it, they dispersed and life on the street was back to normal.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where We are Living Now...

Sorry we haven't posted in awhile. We've been spending all our time looking at apartments and getting our daughter setup for school. Everyone back home is requesting I take more pictures and I hate to say I've slacked off on that too. However, I thought I would share a few pics of our new neighborhood.

We are setup in a temp rental for 2 months or so in the Recoleta. It's a 968sqf, 2 bedroom apartment that suites us just fine for now. It's furnished nicely and has everything we need to function.

Our Temp. Apartment

It is a little tough going from 3,600 sqf to 968 sqf and we are getting use to having everything on a much smaller scale. You should see the size of the bathrooms. My wife about died when she saw the size of the washing machine ( you can see it in the last picture peeking out from behind the bottom cabinet).

It is in a great neighborhood though. The Recoleta can be a little on the touristy side, however it works in our favor since most employees in the shops and restaurants are use to customers speaking English.

Our New Neighborhood

Here are a few shots of the neighborhood. Most people give me a "Yeah Right!" look when I tell them Buenos Aires looks a lot like Paris. Let me know what you think.

New Neighborhood

Neighborhood Chocolatier

The Hotel Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

Our new Neighborhod.   Along Alvear.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Not to Pickup Your Family and Move To Buenos Aires

We are finally in our temporary apartment here in Buenos Aires. The kids are having a great time and adjusting well. We need to get them enrolled in school and have a meeting setup tomorrow with the school.

The estate sale is over and we brought in a record haul. Tammy and Leah with Step Back in Time Estate Sales did a great job and brought in three times more money than they have ever raised. Granted, we had a lot of stuff to sale. Way too much stuff.

In fact, we left in such a hurry that friends and family were left to complete so many things on our to do list. We are forever indebted to them now. People thinking of picking up and moving to another country should not use us as an example of how to do it. So here is my post on how not to become an expat.

  1. Procrastinate. Your departure date will creep up on you before you know it. Don't put things off. We were still packing past the moment we should of left to the Airport. We had put off selling the cars until the last minute and even thought we were selling them to CarMAX, the whole process took longer than we thought and threw our whole schedule off. We didn't even have time to return the rental truck to the car return at the airport. Thanks Tracey for helping us out on that one.

  2. Take too much stuff with you on the airplane. We almost did OK on this one. I restricted every family member to two checked bags and a carry on. We went out and bought the biggest bags we could find that were still within airline regulations. I also let everyone check a standard rollaboard. The only problem... each of the big bags were more than 10lbs over weight when we arrived at checkin. We had to sit in the middle of the ticket counter area and repack everything into an extra bag we bought from the airline. It wasn't a pretty site with our undies frantically flying from one bag to another.

  3. Don't purge early and often. It is amazing how much stuff you collect over the years. The minute you decide to move, start throwing things out. Take all the CDs, videos and books to stores in your area that take them back for resell. It is amazing how much money we made off those things. If you are having an Estate Sale, your sellers might not be too happy about it. However, you need to declutter your house as soon as possible to get it ready to sell. eBay and Craigslist are your best friends. Also plan on several garage sales.

  4. Can't decide: professional estate sale vs. do it your self. As mentioned above, eBay and Craigslist can be your best friends. Also, if you are good at holding garage sales, go for it. However, if you have a lot of stuff like we did, you might consider a professionally run estate sale. The advantage is that you get to skip town on your adventure and leave all the hard work to others who know how to price everything, market the sale, run it and clean up afterwards. The downside? They take around 35% of the profits. Trust me, for a very large house it is a lot of work and they easily earn their fee. We went the estate sale route and are glad we did. We maximized our return for the least amount of effort.

  5. Forget to cancel everything you don't need. It is two weeks into our adventure and we are still remembering about magazines, utilities, and insurance items we no longer need or can use. Thank goodness for Skype and email. They make canceling those things from afar not too much different from sitting in Arlington, TX.

Again, thanks to all of our wonderful friends and family members who have helped out the past several weeks to make our dream come true. Without their help, we would still be stuck in Texas today.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Tanghetto: The Soundtrack to Buenos Aires

Everywhere we go, we hear the music of Tanghetto. It's playing in the Hotel, at the restaurants, the malls. We can't escape the sound... nor do we want to. It has become the soundtrack to our adventure.

It is similar to Gotan Project and in the "Electro-Tango" mold. However, it is a richer sound with a lot of classical strings and bridges the gap between electronic and classical music.

I was blown away to discover they did a cover of the classic New Order song, "Blue Monday".

Check them out on YouTube.